Discover more from The Sword and the Sandwich
How to Conquer the Devil
Step 1: amass absolute worldly power
Edited by David Swanson
The first thing you have to understand about America is the devil is real here. Not a metaphor or a corny Halloween costume or some elaborate Miltonian construct but an honest to goodness cleft-footed malevolent influence on every aspect of human life. In a sizeable proportion of American Christian households, battling the devil is a full-time occupation, an invisible total war. This manichaean worldview has led to an alternative spiritual topography, one designed to map a world where the Satanic Panic never ended.
Across the American right, insinuations of Satanic associations and the drinking of children’s blood are now so commonplace and so widespread that they have swayed elections. As Brandy Zadrozny, an extremism reporter with NBC, reported, David Leavitt, a longtime politician in Provo, Utah, lost his reelection as prosecutor in part because of widespread Internet rumors that he and his wife led a “ritual sex abuse cult.”
That these Satanic rumors were started by an individual Leavitt had charged with rape—and who subsequently fled to Scotland after faking his own death—mattered little in the brackish ecology of conspiracy theorists and those willing to portray themselves as righteous protectors of the innocent. Leavitt vowed never to run for office again, after a press conference in which he was forced to deny that he had ever murdered or cannibalized children for Satan. The cost of public service, he said, was too high.
While politics is a principal battlefield in this infernal struggle, it is by no means the only one the ultra-conservative, prophecy-inclined charismatics of the evangelical world are focused on. In fact, there are seven areas—the “Seven Mountains of Influence”—which were laid out by Bill Bright, founder of the far-right Christian youth organization Campus Crusade, and Loren Cunningham, the similarly-inclined founder of Youth With A Mission, in 1975.
The thesis is loosely derived from a cryptic passage in Revelation (perhaps the most beloved book of the Bible among fundamentalists): “And the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, where I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns… And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.” From this scanty textual basis, Bright and Cunningham engaged in a bit of haruspicy and came up with the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” or “7M” to its more loyal adherents.
The seven heads-slash-mountains, according to the advocates of explicit Christian theocratic rule of the U.S., are as follows: government, family, education, religion, media, arts and entertainment, and business. Further popularized by the 2013 publication of Invading Babylon: the 7 Mountain Mandate, by charismatic megachurch leader Bill Johnson and self-proclaimed prophet Lance Wallnau, the seven-mountain mandate demands that believers “take the seven mountains of culture for Christ’s Kingdom.” Total dominion over these spheres is key to winning the spiritual war against Satan being waged every day.
The Sword and the Sandwich is a newsletter about serious extremism and equally serious sandwiches. Please consider supporting this work with a paid subscription:
Johnson and Wallnau make clear that obtaining absolute control of apparently secular pursuits, such as politics and journalism, is a duty required of those of the faithful who would wage war against Satan: “The shocking truth is that each mountain is a spiritual mountain! The devil’s skill in leading us to think differently has resulted in the spiritual invasion of foreign deities into every area once held by followers of Christ... If the Church leaves a vacuum by failing to occupy these high places with the teaching of the Kingdom, the enemy will seek to disciple the nations by building strongholds of deception that are guarded and advanced through those decision makers who rise to the top of the seven mountains of culture.”
Seven-mountain theory, which creates an attendant martial attitude in its adherents, casts a different light on the culture wars. When every media critique, film review, or element of academe is a matter of succumbing to the influence of Satan or shielding against it, there’s no such thing as a small matter. This makes the established pattern of evangelical commentators harrying leftist academics more legible; it also renders Christian homophobia and transphobia not just concern for personal sin, but part of the battle for influence over the “family” sphere.
As prophetess Cindy Jacobs explains in the “Seven Mountains” section of her Generals International website, dominion over the family is under constant threat by amoral degeneracy. “The families of the United States have been under constant and prolonged attack. Today, the assailants are fatherlessness, divorce (50% rate in secular and Christian marriages), abuse, homosexual marriage, pornography, and other negative influences have brought great dysfunction to American life,” Jacobs writes. “God is calling fathers and mothers (both spiritual and biological) to bring order to the chaos that the enemy has unleashed against families in America.”
In this cosmology, harassing gay people, protesting the depiction of queer couples in media, and pursuing a fleet of legislative actions against the public existence of trans people—from using the bathroom to taking part in sports—isn’t just garden-variety prejudice. It’s a struggle to wrest American families from the devil, from the very maw of hell. And for that reason, believers will never stop fighting the “chaos of the enemy,” no matter how obscene and absurd their political or social maneuvers become.
Just ask the trans kids who were investigated by the Texas Department of Children and Family Services, under the fundamentalist rule of Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas legislature. Or the Florida girls forced to catalog their periods to participate in youth sports, all to rout out the purported scourge of trans athletes. Or the kids plucked out of class to be interrogated for gender nonconformity, taken from their parents for seeking care. These kids are the casualties of the battle for a mythic mountain, the real, fragile lives caught unwittingly on the frontlines of the spirit war. For the right to win their seven mountains so many souls will turn to scree, loose and scrabbling downhill.